Filed under: famous people, history, literature, top-feature
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edinburgh
So, you’ve probably seen the statue on Picardy Place (map) and always wondered – what exactly is the connection between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edinburgh?
About the Author
Well, Edinburgh is the first UNESCO City of Literature, and Doyle was an author. Few realise though that he was born here in Edinburgh in 1859, though his father was English and his mother was Irish. His home was nearby where the statue stands today. He was actually a student of medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and went on to serve as the doctor on a ship. But under this guise, his literary roots were gathering. During his Edinburgh studies, he published some of his first works – he wasn’t even 20 before being printed in a local magazine, Chambers Edinburgh Journal.
He left Edinburgh to England, trying to establish himself in the medical circles. This didn’t prove easy nor very profitable, so Doyle had a lot of time on his hands. That was good for us, as he spent that time writing.
Ever the polymath, Doyle moved to Vienna in 1890 to study optometry, and then set up his own practice in the city – the perfect backdrop for Vienna was a city filled with brilliant minds. Alas, the universe continued to teach Doyle a lesson; nobody wanted him to check out their eyes either, so yet again he had a open office with nobody in it. He continued to write.
While Doyle never returned to his home of Edinburgh for any great length of time, so say the city’s graces did influence his works on occasion. Some say the Salisbury Crags were the backdrop for the book The Lost World. But evidence is unequivocal that Doyle’s most famous book, Sherlock Holmes, was based on a character that Doyle met during his time at the Royal College of Surgeons. There, he mentored under a man by the name of Dr Joseph Bell – a man who went into extraordinary detail to interview his patients, revealing all sorts of facts and information about their lives.
Catching a Glimpse Today
Today, if you want a glimpse of Doyle, there isn’t much to see beyond the statue. Across the street from it, of course, is the Conan Doyle pub – a cheery little place with nice food and a great view to watch the traffic wizz by on the roundabout.
I prefer the Jekyll and Hyde, a ghoul-inspired pub in the New Town. The book its named after wasn’t written by Doyle but by fellow Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. I do think though it’s a place for Doyle enthusiasts to go, with is macabre and somewhat “medically-inspired” bric-a-brac, book-lined walls, and other oddities.
Or how about just exploring one of Edinburgh’s many libraries? Many are haunted, and all have their own unique architecture. Don’t miss those and other tips in our places for bookworms to go in Edinburgh.
A Wonderful Man
I’d just like to close by quoting the phrase printed on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tombstone in Minstead (Hampshire, England), which sums him up so eloquently:
PATRIOT, PHYSICIAN & MAN OF LETTERS
APicardy Pl, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH7Picardy Pl, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH7, UKView Details and Book